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In re Chamberlain

Supreme Court of Indiana

December 18, 2017

In the Matter of: Philip H. Chamberlain, Respondent.

          Respondent Pro Se Philip H. Chamberlain Bloomington, Indiana

          Attorneys for the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission G. Michael Witte, Executive Director David E. Griffith, Staff Attorney Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorney Discipline Action Hearing Officer Christine Talley Haseman

          PER CURIAM.

         We find that Respondent, Philip Chamberlain, engaged in attorney misconduct by committing the crime of counterfeiting. For this misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should be suspended from the practice of law in this state for at least three years without automatic reinstatement, effective from the date of this opinion.

         This matter is before the Court on the report of the hearing officer appointed by this Court to hear evidence on the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission's "Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action." Respondent's 1990 admission to this state's bar subjects him to this Court's disciplinary jurisdiction. See Ind. Const. art. 7, § 4.

         Procedural Background and Facts

         Respondent endorsed a check payable to a third party, siphoned off $10, 000 for himself, and provided the payee with a cashier's check for the remainder. Respondent did this without the payee's knowledge or permission. As a result, Respondent was charged with, and eventually pled guilty to, counterfeiting. Respondent was ordered to pay $15, 000 in restitution to the victim, although that amount later was reduced to $10, 000. Despite the ability and professed intent to make restitution, to date Respondent has paid only about $200.

         After Respondent was convicted, the Commission filed a "Notice of Finding of Guilt" on March 14, 2013, and we issued an order on June 11, 2013, suspending Respondent on an interim basis. See Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23(11.1)(a). The Commission filed a "Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action" against Respondent on October 28, 2013. Thereafter, Respondent sought and was granted a stay of these disciplinary proceedings pending resolution of certain proceedings in his criminal case. On November 7, 2016, we issued an order lifting the stay. Following an evidentiary hearing, the hearing officer filed her report on September 6, 2017.

         Discussion and Discipline

         The Commission alleged, the hearing officer found, and Respondent admits violations of Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 8.4(b) (by committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer) and 8.4(c) (by engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation). We likewise conclude that Respondent violated Rules 8.4(b) and 8.4(c) as charged.

         Respondent has petitioned for review, challenging certain findings in aggravation made by the hearing officer as well as the hearing officer's rejection of two mitigating factors proffered by Respondent.

         The hearing officer found the following six facts in aggravation, of which Respondent challenges the first three: (1) the victim was vulnerable; (2) Respondent has refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his misconduct; (3) Respondent has been indifferent to making restitution; (4) Respondent's misconduct was illegal in nature; (5) Respondent's misconduct was due to a dishonest or selfish motive; and (6) Respondent has substantial experience in the practice of law.

         We find ample support for the hearing officer's comprehensive and well-reasoned findings. In his own testimony, Respondent described the victim as a "broken man" at the time Respondent met him, which was shortly before Respondent committed the acts underlying his criminal conviction. (Tr. at 122). Although Respondent pled guilty, he has spent many of the intervening years denying that he committed counterfeiting and filing multiple collateral attacks, including an "Amended Motion for Relief [from] Judgment" filed in the criminal court shortly before final hearing in this matter in which Respondent alleged that his guilty plea and restitution order resulted from fraud and misconduct by the victim, the prosecutor, the judge, and the Indiana Securities Division. (Comm'n Ex. 47). And finally, the numerous promises made by Respondent over the years to pay the restitution, his failure to honor those promises despite an ability to pay, ...


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